Promoting Equitable Practice in the Delivery of Career and Technical Education

By Shannon Baker

In the world of K-12 education, those participating in providing career counseling to students must work to ensure equitable practices are being implemented. Career coaches and counselors can sometimes find themselves with unintended biases through exclusionary languages while providing career counseling to students. For example, counselors may steer students out of careers due to physical or other disabilities. This can, in turn, cause students to impose limits on themselves as to what they can accomplish due to their differences. The National Career Development Association, Facilitating Career Development Student Manual (FCDS) states “as professionals, counselors have the legal and ethical obligation to treat people equitably and not let our biases color our ability to provide services” (NCDA, 2017). There are several ways to curb biased practices while delivering career development services to students. Currently, applicable federal laws are the first place to start by providing counselors with self-reflection questions that proceed out of these laws to increase counselors’ awareness of legally appropriate counseling practices.

Overview of Applicable Laws

There are civil rights laws enforced by the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for schools that are recipients of federal monies. The laws protect students and employees from being excluded from participating in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.  Civil rights laws addressed are as follows:

The Section V (Counseling and Prevocational Programs) of the Vocational Educational Programs Guidelines provides a holistic view of career counseling practices while supporting previous civil rights laws noted.


Students and Career-Based Opportunities

When students are being offered career-based opportunities, it is the responsibility of the counselor to make sure that counseling materials, promotional activities and recruitment efforts are not discriminatory. To do this, counselors should ask themselves the following questions when planning career-based opportunities for students:

Student Advising

When students are being advised by counselors during the process of enrolling in courses or programs focusing on a specific career path, a variety of counseling tools should be presented to help students make a decision. For example, if a counselor is counseling a student who may have some impairment, such as an ambulatory impairment, that student should not be only given a job shadow day at a local dentist’s office to assess an interest in a career in dental hygiene. This could discourage the student from taking courses or participating in program areas that may lead to a career in that particular area.  Other tools such as video tours or telephone interviews would be more encouraging.

When scheduling students for classes, disproportionate enrollment based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability can occur. Many times it is as a result of having no set protocol in place for enrolling students in courses.

When local institutions develop Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offerings and course schedules, counselors should consider the following:  

Students and Course Selections

When students are recruited for course offerings and programs, such as honors and advanced placement courses, the process should be objective not subjective. When planning student recruitment activities, counselors should consider the following:

According to a research study by Borchert (2002), if career counseling were implemented efficiently, students would at the very least be following a career plan of informed decision-making, rather than one of happenstance.  Throughout this article, a few questions are suggested for counselors to ponder as they proceed with counseling students into career paths and course selections. The goal is to provide students with ample information allowing them to make an informed as well as an independent choice regarding the course selection and career path.


Borchert, M. (December 2002). Career choice factors of high school students. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/5066035.pdf

National Career Development Association. (2017). Facilitating Career Development – Student Manual. Broken Arrow, OK: author.


Shannon BakerShannon Baker is an education consultant and Business and Marketing Education instructor in the state of North Carolina. She is a partner with KB Consulting Group, L. L. C., which specializes in educational and corporate professional development, with a focus on equitable leadership practices.  Shannon attained her Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees from North Carolina State University in Business and Marketing Education. Her professional affiliations include: NCDA Career Development Facilitator Instructor; Member of Association of Career and Technical Educators (ACTE); Board member for the North Carolina ACTE; Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) Alumni; National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). To learn more information about services provided by KB Consulting Group or to contact Shannon, she can be contacted via email smkbaker@gmail.com.


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1 Comment

Christina Fuller   on Wednesday 06/06/2018 at 05:23 PM

This was a great and very important article. Thank you for posting this!

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